We need hope!
By Khurshid Akhtar Khan
September 16, 2012
The other day, I read a brilliant article about the glass of water being half empty or half full. The same day, I came across a cartoon that read: “Dear optimist, pessimist and realist - while you guys were busy arguing about the glass of water, I drank I - The opportunist.” The quote reminded me of former President Pervez Musharraf, who always looked at the glass being half full and eventually left the glass half empty. The cartoon reminded me of President Asif Ali Zardari, who sneaked from behind and drank the water. One and a half decade later, we the people continue squabbling among each other over trivialities, while the things that matter are swept under the carpet. The opportunists among us never had it better. The outside world looks at us in dismay how a nation has programmed itself into a self-destruct mode. We have no enemies but ourselves. We have everything in our country where we were born, raised and developed our skills. It was not long ago that Pakistan was a beacon of light for all Muslim nations and the Far East. We were reputed to be among the hardest working, talented and enterprising. Not anymore! Those who gained the most are now among the foremost to sell their loyalties, abandon and renounce their country. There is no dearth of our people, who will stand in humiliating long queues to acquire any colour passport, except the green one. Anyone who could stole our national wealth and hid it in someone else’s backyard. Many of us have lost the pride in calling ourselves Pakistanis. So much so, that some masquerade in the West as Indians whom they normally claim to detest. The entire nation is presently held hostage by a minority among us ordinary people, who have misused religion to push us backwards, create intolerance and hate. They have raised the level of religious fanaticism to the extent that the evil acts of terrorism anywhere in the world are suspected to have been committed by Pakistanis. Before that, a few of us had done enough damage by exporting drugs, counterfeit currency and engaging in human trafficking and any other heinous crimes under the sun. We today stand singled out as the nation harbouring and promoting terrorism and whatever else is wrong.
These facts haunt more as one travels to the West. How have we managed to transform ourselves from an upcoming bright nation into the most hated and ignorant people in the world? How have we managed to court doom and isolation when we were well on the path of progress and the most enlightened and loved among the Muslim and developing nations? The Pakistanis earning an honest living abroad wonder how they can defend their country, when their government and their country folk are not willing to open their minds to face the hard realities; rather, lack the determination to combat these evils. Are our problems too big or we are too small to overcome them. Do we wish to remain the victims of destiny or to become masters of our own? Here, in the West, you hear countless success stories and come across Pakistanis from humble origins, with little education and initial capital that applied their minds and efforts productively in a highly competitive environment to achieve what most natives could not. They run small corner shops, manage motels and petrol stations, own factories and chain stores or work in offices and shop floors. These are ordinary people, who left their homeland due to lack of opportunities with little to their credit, except hard work, dedication and will to succeed. There are professionals and graduates from Pakistani universities that have excelled in their fields and are second to none. They all yearn to return to their soil one day. All of them feel the pain, as they hear the stories of the loss of innocent lives by sectarian clashes and suicide attacks, humiliating political scandals and the heartlessness and indifference of those in power to divert their energy and resources to tackle and resolve these basic issues and get on with nation-building. You meet Christian families, who fled Pakistan in the Zia era due to harassment and fear for their lives, depriving it of patriotic Pakistanis who contributed tremendously with their unique culture and work ethics.
They cry with remorse as they talk about the injustices routinely meted out to minorities - like the 16-year old child Rimsha, who suffers from Down’s Syndrome, and was implicated in blasphemy by a local Imam, who has turned out to be a swindle motivated by a land grab scheme or of the (relatively) affluent Sindhi Hindus migrating to India in large numbers, as their daughters are being kidnapped and forced to convert. They wonder, if this is the Pakistan for which their ancestors sacrificed their lives in millions, where its citizens - Muslim, Hindu and Christian alike - are terrorised and oppressed by their own fellow country folk under the garb of religion, sects and politics. They wonder, why do the rulers don’t protect their citizens, while they spend fortunes protecting their own families at state expense? They wonder why do the people, who have achieved a measure of success in their lives, do not create opportunities for others? Why are the people reluctant to let go of power, even when they have left the glass half empty or when they have failed to steer the nation in the right direction? Why do the politicians on either side always talk about their problems and never about the people’s problems? Who will give the have-nots hope for a better future? I quote what Michelle Obama, the wife of President Barack Obama, said in her address to the Democrats Convention in Charlotte, the other day: “When you have worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not want to slam it shut behind you. You reach back, and you give other folks the same chance that helped you succeeds.”
Khurshid Akhtar Khan is an engineer and an entrepreneur.